What are Joint Connectors?
Whether you’re making a memory bear from a treasured piece of clothing or creating a collectible teddy bear from luxurious mohair, making the head, arms, and legs of your teddy or doll movable adds that extra touch of magic. You can buy a set of joints for soft toys to make your toy more life-like. For each movable part of your doll or bear, you will need two fiber or wooden discs. In addition, you will need a split pin (sometimes called cotter pin, or T-pin) or a screw with a locknut and washers.
The joint discs, together with their silverware, make up a set of teddy bear joints. Usually, there are ten discs, five split pins or screws, and at least ten washers in a toy-making joint set. Does this sound confusing? Don’t worry, you can shop for ready-to-use joint sets at CreativeMe. When you buy a set of joint connectors, it will be enough for your teddy’s head, arms, and legs and you will have all the discs, washers, and split pins/screws you need.
How to Make Movable Arms and Legs for your Dolls and Teddy Bears
To insert joints into your teddy bear or doll, you need a few simple tools:
- An awl. If you don’t have one, a knitting needle or skewer stick will also work.
- A pair of needle-nose pliers. You can use straight pliers but the bent-nose variety is more comfortable to hold.
- If you’re using a joint set with screws, you will need a screwdriver and a small spanner to tighten the locknuts. We use 3mm and 5mm locknuts in our joint sets. Beginners find it easier to work with split pin joints. If you don’t have the right tools or want to use teddy bear joints for the first time, we recommend that you buy a joint set that has only split pins and no screws.
Always insert the disc with a split pin or screw into the limb first, then attach it to the body. You will find detailed jointing tutorials on our blog HERE
What Size Joints Do You Need for Your Teddy Bear?
Usually, your doll or teddy bear pattern comes with a list of supplies that tell you the size of the joints you need. If you don’t have a supply list or you’re working from your own design, measure across the width of the limb where you want to attach the joint. Also, keep in mind that you will need a seam allowance to sew up the parts. There should be a few millimeters of space between the seam and the disc. This will vary depending on the size of your toy.
Wooden Joints vs Plastic Doll Joints
We sometimes receive inquiries about plastic doll joints and white safety joints for toys (wood and fiber discs are child-safe). Here are the reasons why we prefer to work with wooden joints instead:
- Wooden discs and split pins or screws are an affordable option.
- The planet is suffocating in plastic. When a natural alternative is available, it’s always the superior choice.
- Wooden joints give you better control over the stability and amount of movement in your toy’s head, arms, and legs. It’s possible to tighten a screw or split pin to the exact tension you want, while snap-on doll joints can’t be adjusted.
- In time, plastic doll joints become brittle and fall apart. This is a problem that toy restorers come across every day. Wooden joints have stood the test of time. Teddies that are more than 100 years old are still in perfect working condition.
- The only draw-back to wood and fiber soft toy joints is that they can’t be submerged in water. Since most hand-made toys are surface washable, we don’t regard this as a problem. If you’re making toys for small children and you want them to be machine washable, we recommend that you make unjointed toys.